2018 beer predictions: Lots of lager and session stouts

by DGO Web Administrator

Predicting the future is hard work, and nigh impossible. No one could have predicted two years ago that a sentient sack of shit would have been elected president. No one could have predicted that Alabama would have narrowly elected a Democrat over an alleged pedophile. Politics definitely shows that the future is the most uncertain place, but the beer world is just as fraught. Five years ago, no one was afraid of losing their local brewery to a money-hungry mega-corporation, but now it happens monthly. It’s become a normal part of the beer world.

It’s with lot of humility that I delve into the world of predicting the future. No, I’m not wearing a jewel-encrusted turban, ala Johnny Carson, but I’ve definitely got my eyes and nose and taste buds tuned to the winds of change. When you pay enough attention, you can see it and feel some of the trends coming.

I feel like American Solera is one of the brewers that’s always ahead of the curve. Owner and head brewer Chase Healey is always 10 steps ahead of the beer world. I don’t think he’s a trend-setter necessarily, but is so far ahead of trends that one can forget that he did [insert name of trend] first, or at the same time as [insert name of trendy brewery]. Chase might be best known as the founder of Prairie Artisan Ales, which basically created the approachable and accessible tart farmhouse beer. Prairie Standard is, in fact, a standard. Through American Solera, he also brewed plenty of wild ales and hazy IPAs (Terpy Citra). Recently, American Solera installed a horizontal lager tank, as there is currently a swell of lager beer that we’re all going to ride as a gnarly wave in 2018.

People have been predicting the rise of the craft lager for years, but this year I think we’ll finally see it; there is a visual aesthetic unique to the craft lager to set it apart: mountains of foam. Similar to the way that the hazy IPA has that visual click that sets it apart, the aesthetic of the new craft lager is the normal 2 inches of head, plus another 2 to 3 inches of stiff foam that stands out of the glass like a beautiful, abstract, marble sculpture. For the best images of this, check out Suarez Family Brewing’s instagram feed. It’s quite remarkable.

Another trend that I’m seeing, but is very tenuous because it is so new, is the session stout. Right now, we are in the heat of a huge adjunct-stout-mania. A lot of people call these beers Pastry Stouts as a slight because of all the doughnuts, cupcakes, breakfast cereals, and all manner of sugary additions to an imperial stout. The beers are crazy in their adjuncts but also crazy in the amount of alcohol – all in the 10 to 15 percent ABV range – so you’re lucky if you can drink a whole bottle yourself.

But there are also dark visions of the dead end of the style: Burger and fries stout. No, the brewery didn’t use the meat of the burger, but they did mash in a bunch of fries and buns. Pair the end of creativity with the almost undrinkability of the amount of alcohol, and this is death knell of the style. There is nothing more you can do, nothing else as crazy or as benign. Sure, we may see some pizza stouts, or bagels and cream cheese, or curry stouts, but this is the end. As the philosopher Theodor Adorno said, “There is no poetry after the holocaust.” Thanks to the Pastryarchy, beer is dead.

But, somewhere out there is our savior. Simply calling a well-brewed beer a session stout won’t be appealing enough to save us from our Pastryarchal Rulers. We need a good name, and Off Color Brewing in Chicago has that for us: Myshka Russian Serf Stout. All of the flavor and aroma and residual sugar of a Russian Imperial Stout, but in a 3.5 percent ABV. Just imagine, you can smash six packs of your favorite Pastry Stout! Instead of drinking just a tiny sip of this year’s 13 percent Christmas Cookie Stout, we could potentially see a 3.4 percent Gingerbread Stout in six packs of tall boys in the 2018 holiday season.

Robbie Wendeborn is the head brewer at Svendæle Brewing in Millerton, New York. He is also a former beer plumber at Ska Brewing.


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